The French. They of rich culinary traditions, mimes, and a propensity for short, megalomaniacal men who sometimes unsuccessfully invade Russia (see: Napolean (yes), Sarkozy (not yet), etc.). Cordon Bleu is a term that denotes cooking excellence, evidenced in its being the name of the renowned cooking school in France that has become an international pipeline for supplying the hospitality and cooking world with people who can both whip up a good sauce and then properly pair it with the correct wine. None of this, however, explains how ‘cordon bleu’ became associated with shoving ham and cheese into poultry (pre-deadened, of course) prior to cooking.
The closest I could find in the explanation department concerned the Austrians’ conversion of schnitzel into a pocket containing ham and cheese. It doesn’t explain where or when chicken showed up and demanded similar stuffing, but I’m not sure it matters, either. The point here is that there was meat involved and, with little or no fanfare, someone stuffed more meat and some cheese into it for, I don’t know, the hell of it, I guess. And frankly, unless you’re a vegetarian or a member of the hardcore vegan world, the thought of stuffing meat and cheese into some other meat sounds pretty damned good. I’d tried chicken cordon bleu in the past, but the result had always been a resounding ‘meh’, primarily because rolled meat can sometimes be tricky to cook thoroughly. I’ve run into this issue in the past with other recipes involving stuffed pork or roasts or chicken and so I went into this latest iteration with a certain amount of trepidation. I found a different recipe that added a sauce and gave a couple ideas on how not to sicken everyone with uncooked poultry, so I had high hopes. Turns out they were well-founded. This truly did not suck.
This recipe uses four chicken breasts, but the sauce you’re going to make can easily cover six or more, so don’t limit yourself if you have extra chickens running around begging to be killed, kleaned, and kooked.
Four skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Four slices of cheese
Swiss, havarti, whatever…I used this horseradish cheddar stuff that’s pretty frikkin’ amazing. The important thing here is that you don’t use some monstrosity like Kraft Singles or Velveeta Cheese-like Oil-based Food Product, which would be disrespectful to the chicken and everyone you’re about to feed, including yourself.
Four slices of ham
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 c white wine
½ c chicken stock
1 c whipping scream
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp corn starch
1 cup bread crumbs
Cover each breast with some saran wrap and pound them into flattened versions of themselves. If such violence requires the dredging of childhood injustice, then so be it. Can there be a better way to free the buried pain of not getting a pony for your fourth birthday? Of course not. Or be theatrical and yell, ‘HAVE AT YOU!!’ and commence pounding. Either way, they should end up looking sort of like this.
Adorn with the ham and cheese and fold the meat into thirds (I added a spoonful of dijon mustard to the middle, but it’s not necessary). Poke a couple toothpicks into each breast to hold it together. Beat the egg like a redheaded step-child, then dip each breast into the beaten egg before coating with the bread crumbs.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter with some olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Gently, GENTLY, place two breasts at a time into the butter/olive oil and listen to the sizzle. Grab some tongs and turn the breasts over after ~3 minutes. You just want to get both sides sort of brown and slightly crusty. Transfer the breasts to a casserole dish.
Combine the wine, cream, stock, paprika, and corn starch into a pan over medium-high heat. Once things start to boil, begin to whisk slowly. As the sauce begins to thicken, lower the heat slightly and let it gurgle for a little while. Whisk it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t get all filmy and boring. There’s nothing worse than a filmy, boring sauce. When the sauce is nicely thickened (subjective opinion), pour some over each breast, then transfer the casserole dish to the the oven for ~20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes.
Serve each breast over some rice and coat with more of the white wine sauce. Holy crap, yo. See how that junk looks? It actually tastes better. I KNOW, RIGHT!?!??!
I threw some asparagus onto the side as a vegetable, as it goes nicely with chicken dishes and also because who doesn’t enjoy stinky pee? Best way to make asparagus: Wrap them in foil, coat them with olive oil, toss in some garlic, salt pepper, and thyme, then shove it all into the same 350-degree oven for ~1 hour.
Sir @ April 11, 2010